Tag Archives: Chicago

The Windy City

Chicago is an incredible city.  On Day 2 of our blissful weekend away, we took one of those “hop on hop off” tours where you can take an open-top bus around the city and get on and off wherever you like.  The buses seemed to run really frequently, so we never had to wait.  We started off my traveling north up Lakeshore Drive along Lake Michigan.  I was very surprised by how clean and not-smelly the water was.

Our first stop was Navy Pier, which we thankfully hit pretty early.  When we drove by later in the day it looked like a mob scene.  Anyway, it’s a long pier that the navy used during WWII to train pilots to land on aircraft carriers.  Now, it’s a long amusement park.  We walked down the length and enjoyed the fantastic views, and then rode the 15 story ferris wheel.  It’s huge, and it’s SLOW.  We had plenty of time for pictures.This is how high up we were:

Back aboard the bus, we next went to the John Hancock Building.  It’s the fourth tallest building (I think).  Well, I’m sure it’s not the tallest (that’s the Sears Tower, which they now call the Willis Tower, which just seems wrong).  Anyway, the view seemed like it would be better from the John Hancock, so we went up to the Observation Deck on the 94th floor.  Spooky.  Here’s the view of the skyline:

And looking north up the lake:

All those little dots are beach umbrellas!!

Chicago also has some fabulous architecture.  I think next time we’re there we’ll take an architecture tour.  This was my favorite building, and the only one designed by a female architect.  The closer we got, the more amazing it became:

We ate a lot of good food, including stuffed pizza at Giordano’s, traditional Chicago hot dogs at Portillo’s, and the best steak I’ve ever had at Gibson’s Steakhouse.  We also took in some live music.  We made it to a jazz bar and a blues bar.  Can you believe we did all of that in one day??

Monday morning we spent walking around Grant Park and visiting with my friend Jane who is lucky enough to live in this beautiful city.  We were sad to say goodbye, and wished we had a few more days to explore, but we were also looking forward to home and the kids.  Going away is nice, but it always seems that coming home is better.

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15 Years

Nate and I just celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary.  On June 29th, 1996, we got hitched.  We decided to celebrate this year by going out of town without the kids.  We had two free Southwest tickets that were about to expire, so we pulled up the Southwest map, and tried to find somewhere that would be feasible for a long weekend.

We decided on Chicago.  We had each been there in the past for conferences, but had felt we didn’t have the time to see the city properly.  So, despite much stress the few days before (boiler explosion, no hot water, kid with weird skin rash), we packed in a flurry on Friday night and left at the crack of dawn Saturday morning.  It was so easy – a short plane ride, a short L ride, and we were dropping off our suitcase and heading for the Chicago Art Institute.

I cannot remember the last time I was free to wander around an art museum for as long as I wanted without having to take anyone to the bathroom, change a diaper, chase a toddler, or watch wandering grubby hands lest they deface something priceless.  I also cannot remember the last time I visited a museum of the caliber of the Chicago Art Institute.  You know Grant Wood’s American Gothic?  It’s there.  The original one.  Right there.  Hanging on the wall.

You know that guy Picasso?  He of all the weird cubist paintings?  They have a lot of Picasso’s, ranging throughout his life.  It was fascinating to see how his style progressed over the years.  He started out doing realistic portraits and stills and ended up here:

It was fascinating to look at the various self-portraits there are in the museum.  I was thinking about this as I was looking at the different expressions the artists wore in their self-portraits.  If you are painting a picture of someone else, I am assuming that you look at the person’s face, and you paint the expression that you see on it.  But when you’re painting a self-portrait, you kind of get to choose the expression you put on your own face.  It was so funny to see the different expressions chosen by the different artists.  Some of them looked so open and friendly, some looked aggressive and angry, and then there was this guy:

Good old Vincent Van Gogh.  Doesn’t he look confused?  He suffered from mental illness, cutting off his own ear.  There were several of Van Gogh’s paintings in the Art Institute’s collection, including an 1888 painting of his bedroom, in which this self-portrait can be seen hanging above his bed.  Fantastic.

There is also this very famous Seraut, immortalized in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, which I suddenly flashed upon as I was standing in front of it:

The photo doesn’t do it justice (none of them do!).  Seeing them in person was breathtaking.  And this was just a small portion of the museum.  We spent five hours there, attempting to see the entire museum.  It was a lovely way to start our anniversary celebration – more to come in the next post.

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